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IBM Sues Amazon For Patent Infringement 204

Posted by samzenpus
from the they-did-it-first dept.
Petersko writes "It appears Amazon is about to be sued for patent infringement by IBM". From the article: "Hundreds of other companies have licensed the same patents, and IBM has tried to negotiate licensing deals with Amazon "over a dozen times since 2002," Kelly said. Amazon.com, which has bought a lot of hardware from Hewlett-Packard Co. over the years but not IBM, has allegedly refused every time."
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IBM Sues Amazon For Patent Infringement

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  • Almost a month old (Score:5, Informative)

    by jpetts (208163) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:53PM (#16959300)
    Dupe [slashdot.org].
    • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:55PM (#16959318) Homepage Journal
      Its not a dupe, IBM had to double sue because Amazon have a patent on single click lawsuits.
    • by Ruff_ilb (769396)
      That's the point...
    • by nwbvt (768631)
      And to make matters worse, the slashdot summary reads "It appears Amazon is about to be sued..."

      Did someone misread the month and think this story is about something that happens Novemeber 23, or tomorrow?

    • The law restricts what a patent holder may do with his government-granted monopoly. For example, the patentee cannot enter into a licensing deal lasting longer than the remaining term on his patent. Nor can a patentee try to corner a particular market by buying up all the patents necessary to compete in that field. (It would be another story if the patentee innovated all the patents, but not if he just bought all of them.)

      If IBM sued Amazon partly because Amazon wouldn't buy IBM hardware, then this is ar
  • Ouch (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Turns out that Big Blue has a business method patent on abusing the patent system. Amazon should have seen that coming.
  • Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:56PM (#16959330)
    Our system has become based on the ridiculous premise that all inventors come up with ideas that nobody else could possibly have come up with.

    The patents system has devolved to be that if you are the first to file a piece of paper .. regardless of how obvious your idea is .. you win a monopoly on it for 20 years (with possible infinite extension via mickey mouse legislators).

    Just because you are the first to invent something, doesn't mean society would have been deprived of your invention were it not for you. It just means you got there first (thanks to better resources available to you). It's like a winner of a race claiming that if it wasn't for him, nobody else would have crossed the finish line.
    • Re:Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:09PM (#16959460)
      I have to agree.

      A good analogy would be the development of a race car. IBM is like the company that perhaps developed a car or two. Reasonable patents would probably be on the engine design, electronics, etc. Instead, however, the patent office has granted it the patent to "race cars"; disallowing anyone else from developing their own engines, electronics, or what have you, and putting it all together.

      Is the difference so hard to comprehend in technological contexts that the patent board is unable to differentiate between the two?
    • Almost a great point (Score:2, Interesting)

      by typidemon (729497)

      Just because you are the first to invent something, doesn't mean society would have been deprived of your invention were it not for you. It just means you got there first (thanks to better resources available to you).

      The idea is to protect people who invest those resources into developing technology from people who just wait for the technology to be invented and then just selling it without any of the research costs involved.

      What I do hate is that patents have turned from protecting a method of producti

    • Re:Patents (Score:5, Funny)

      by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:25PM (#16959634) Homepage Journal
      On slashdot it doesn't matter if you're the first to do it, no-one else had ever thought of doing it, and no-one knew how to do it until you did it.. if the method can be explained in a sentence this audience is more than willing to call it "obvious" then make some claim about how something completely unrelated (that is also obvious) could be covered by the patent under question and therefore declare that not only will the lawsuit fail but the patent will be revoked by royal decree.
      • by foobsr (693224) *
        if the method can be explained in a sentence this audience is more than willing to call it "obvious"

        And I would bet that many other audiences would do as well. Those are commonly believed to have common sense of sorts.

        CC.
        • Re:Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

          by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:52PM (#16959904) Homepage Journal
          Sigh. If I were to ask you how to do some technical task, without telling you how I am doing it, and you were to tell me my method, then it would be fair to say that it is obvious.. simple != obvious.
          • by GIL_Dude (850471)
            That sounds like a reasonable test to me. I certainly haven't researched the patents involved here, and CNN wasn't very helpful about any details, however in just reading the article it says that they patented and ordering system using an online catalog. I think that would certainly meet the definition of "obvious". I don't know if they have some totally non-obvious stuff in the patent, or just a bunch of long words that mean "online ordering system", but if it really is just "an online ordering system with
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Sigh. If I were to ask you how to do some technical task, without telling you how I am doing it, and you were to tell me my method, then it would be fair to say that it is obvious.. simple != obvious.

            Unfortunately it's a prisoners' dilemma, because once I've told you the method, it's easy for you to claim that was what you were going to do anyway, and I have no way of proving otherwise.

            Similarly, if you tell me your method first then it's easy for me to claim _that_ as what I was going to tell you. Whoe

            • I can just show you the end result of my method to let you know that I know *some* way of doing it.

              If you can tell how I'm exactly doing it, then it's obvious.
          • Sigh. If I were to ask you how to do some technical task, without telling you how I am doing it, and you were to tell me my method, then it would be fair to say that it is obvious.. simple != obvious.

            Something like the One-Click patent would fail using this criteria. Any decent web developer back when it was introduced could have duplicated the implementation given only the business problem to solve. The credit card info is in a database; if we want to tie that to the user, we'll need to find a way to hav
            • by QuantumG (50515)

              and yet no-one did. Why? Because the practice at the time was to never store credit card information. This solution was only "obvious" to people who had no concept of basic security precautions. As such, the rules were somewhat relaxed for this patent as a tribute to Amazon actually having the balls to advertise to the world that they were not following best practices.
              • True, but your criteria was that given the task someone could come up with the same method as you. Of course, I haven't actually read the patent itself to know whether or not my description is essentially the same as Amazon's but on the surface developing the method to implement it does seem obvious, once the task has been stated.
                 
                • by QuantumG (50515)
                  Obviousness is only one possible criteria for patent acceptance. If your invention is significantly novel then its obviousness can be ignored. Amazon's one-click patent is a perfect example. Literally overnight a practice that was considered crazy became acceptable.. it was the skill of their implementation that made that possible. The method, "one click", was so novel you had to look past the obviousness of the implementation.
    • Here's a thought (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mutube (981006) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:30PM (#16959666) Homepage
      Just because you are the first to invent something, doesn't mean society would have been deprived of your invention were it not for you. It just means you got there first (thanks to better resources available to you). It's like a winner of a race claiming that if it wasn't for him, nobody else would have crossed the finish line.
      If the purpose really is to reward valuable invention (vs. obvious extension) then a simple answer is this: In the event of someone re-inventing something which has been previously awarded a patent, with no evidence of copying, there should be two options available to the patent holder.
      • Add this new inventor to the patent & allow them equal share of licensing fees for it's remaining lifespan.
      • Revoke the patent.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PCM2 (4486)

        If the purpose really is to reward valuable invention (vs. obvious extension) then a simple answer is this: In the event of someone re-inventing something which has been previously awarded a patent, with no evidence of copying, there should be two options available to the patent holder.

        The "no evidence of copying" is the sticky part. You're back to a system that requires that patent examiners be shrewd enough to understand the fundamental difference between one patent and the next. What would obviously

    • Re:Patents (Score:5, Informative)

      by trentblase (717954) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:20PM (#16960154)
      Our system has become based on the ridiculous premise that all inventors come up with ideas that nobody else could possibly have come up with.

      The system is not premised on the idea that nobody else could have come up with the idea. The system encourages people to take their ideas and reduce them to practice. Having the invention filed with the government exposes the knowledge to the public, who benefit where the alternative is keeping the details a secret.

      The patents system has devolved to be that if you are the first to file a piece of paper .. regardless of how obvious your idea is .. you win a monopoly on it for 20 years (with possible infinite extension via mickey mouse legislators).

      Unlike some other countries, the US is not a first-to-file jurisdiction. Instead, it is a first-to-invent jurisdiction, generally giving rights to the first person to come up with the idea. Furthermore, obviousness is a bar to patentability (although a challenger is not allowed the benefit of hindsight when making this obviousness determination). Except in very strange circumstances (usually involving government appropriation of defense-related inventions) there is no way to extend patent rights beyond 20 years. The mickey mouse legislators you refer to are dealing with copyright. Just because you are the first to invent something, doesn't mean society would have been deprived of your invention were it not for you. It just means you got there first (thanks to better resources available to you). It's like a winner of a race claiming that if it wasn't for him, nobody else would have crossed the finish line.

      The limited rights given to a patent holder is one of the main incentives that drives the metaphorical race you describe. Without patents, things would surely be invented... just not as quickly. And once they were, the details would be kept completely secret, robbing value to society. Without patents, here's how the race would go: once the winner reaches the finish line, all the other runners are instantly transported to the finish line and given gold metals. So what is the incentive for any one runner to be first? Nobody would run. They would more likely meander indifferently towards the finish line.

      I'm not some crazy lover of patents. I believe that some reform is in order. But the basic premise makes sense in our currently capitalist business environment.

      • by Eskarel (565631)
        As of a few months ago the US was passing laws to become a first to file nation, don't know what became of that, but it's likely that sometime in the not too distant future it won't be first to invent anymore(first to invent is way to expensive and difficult to administer).
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by juergen (313397)

        The limited rights given to a patent holder is one of the main incentives that drives the metaphorical race you describe. Without patents, things would surely be invented... just not as quickly. And once they were, the details would be kept completely secret, robbing value to society. Without patents, here's how the race would go: once the winner reaches the finish line, all the other runners are instantly transported to the finish line and given gold metals. So what is the incentive for any one runner to b

      • by idlake (850372)
        The system encourages people to take their ideas and reduce them to practice.

        Unfortunately, it doesn't: many patents these days are of the form "wouldn't it be nice if someone made ... work".

        Requiring a working prototype would do a great deal towards cleaning up the patent mess (in addition to doing a better job on prior art and obviousness).
        • Reduction to practice can be actual or constructive. A prototype need not be built for the invention to have social use. See: http://www.smithhopen.com/glossary/default.asp?ID _ Glossary=38 [smithhopen.com] saying:
          Constructive reduction to practice is accomplished by the filing of a PATENT APPLICATION that enables one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention without undue research or experimentation.
          If someone of ordinary skill in the art can make the invention without research, the public interest is
      • by arose (644256)
        The system encourages people to take their ideas and reduce them to practice. Having the invention filed with the government exposes the knowledge to the public, who benefit where the alternative is keeping the details a secret.
        How many people go digging through the huge pile of crap that a patent database represents when they need to make something, say an online shop?
        • This happens all the time. When drug patents expire and the formulations are snapped up by generic manufacturers, do you think they spend money reinventing the wheel? Hell no, they look up the patent and use that to practically eliminate their design costs.
    • by Wolfier (94144)
      If I had my mod points, I'd be modding you down cold.

      Our system has become based on the ridiculous premise that all inventors come up with ideas that nobody else could possibly have come up with.

      How did you arrive at this conclusion? The patent system is to encourage people to elevate their ideas into tangible implementations, and bring them public. Ideas are a dime a dozon - that worth almost nothing on their own.
      If you reach the same implementation independently - too bad - no system is perfect an

    • Although this does not pertain to an obvious idea, the patent office has always operated on the principle that the first to file is granted the patent. Alexander Graham Bell secured a patent for the telephone hours before rival Elisha Gray filed for a telephone patent.
    • by Niten (201835)

      Keep in mind that the primary motives for the creation of the patent system went beyond encouraging innovation. Prior to the advent of patents, inventors would often attempt to maintain an advantage over their competitors by keeping their inventions as trade secrets. Patents were created by the government as an incentive for inventors to give up their trade secrets to the public domain in exchange for a temporary monopoly on those ideas, so that other inventions and innovations could be built on top of them

    • Everyone gets all GPL-ish over the patent system. First one to cross the line? Yeah, maybe if we're talking about a waffle maker, but not if we're talking about semiconductors. Take away their patents, and they go out of business to cheap knock off companies, with no R&D budget, and innovation dies. Most people forget a key part of companies like IBM:

      FTA: "IBM is the world's leading patent holder, spending $6 billion a year in research and development and earning about $1 billion a year in royalties.
      • by arose (644256)

        FTA: "IBM is the world's leading patent holder, spending $6 billion a year in research and development and earning about $1 billion a year in royalties."

        If that's not promoting the arts and science, I don't know what is.

        5 billion loses certainly are not promoting arts or science. If I may take a wild guess it's probably the profits from selling new products their research produces that makes them spend so much on research and development.
    • by m0rph3us0 (549631)
      Patents cannot be extended unlike copyright. The term is still 17 years. The only way to make a patent longer is to refile it with additional details before it gets approved.
  • by iSeal (854481) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:02PM (#16959392)
    The first paragraph in the article states:
    BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- Key aspects of Amazon.com Inc.'s retailing Web site are improperly built on technologies developed at IBM Corp., Big Blue alleged Monday in two lawsuits against Amazon.
    It should read:
    BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- Key aspects of Amazon.com Inc.'s retailing Web site are improperly built on very general concepts involving technology developed at IBM Corp., Big Blue alleged Monday in two lawsuits against Amazon.
  • Simple solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by edwardpickman (965122) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:13PM (#16959496)
    Make lawyers a minimum wage job. All the lawsuits are costing the public a fortune and has placed the court system in perminate gridlock. We need to concentrate on crime not petty squabbling. Patents should be for significant inventions not every minor thing some one thinks up. Often times there's no thieft involved it's simply such an obvious idea that others are recovering the same ground and haven't a clue some suit ape patented the idea. Patents should help spur innovantion. If they don't they aren't in the publics interest. Patents are a creation for the publics interest and are not in the Constitution so when they work against the public they need to be revised. There is no inherent right to patents. I'm a big supporter of inventors rights but these aren't inventions they are similar to cybersquatting and need to removed from the patent process.
    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:33PM (#16959708) Homepage Journal
      Patents are a creation for the publics interest and are not in the Constitution so when they work against the public they need to be revised.

      Um, actually:

      To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

      I agree with you entirely that we need to revise the way and extent to which patents are issued, but the fact is that the issuance and enforcement of patents (along with copyrights) is one of the fundamental purposes of the US government, as defined by the Constitution. (You can of course start an effort to get that section amended; good luck with that.) A better approach is to look at the explanatory clause -- "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" -- and start ruthlessly revising those sections of IP law which do not work toward that goal.

      Step 1: if it's not a physical object, a working model of which can be presented at the time of filing, don't grant a patent. Period. End of story. No software algorithms, no "business methods," no DNA sequences, etc. -- software can go copyright; the other two examples shouldn't get IP protection at all -- and no speculative ideas for something that someone might want to make someday, either.

      Step 2: deem any patents which are not being actively exploited to be unenforceable, and the IP represented in them to be public domain. IOW, if you have a patent on something, you have to be either distributing it on the market, or be able to show that you're working toward the goal. Otherwise, everyone else gets a shot too.

      Step 3: require patent holders to defend their patents, as is the case with trademarks. If the patent holder could reasonably be expected to be aware of a violation -- as IBM certainly could be expected to be aware of Amazon -- require them to begin legal action within one (1) year or forfeit the claim.

      These three steps, if followed, would I think substantially reduce the amount of patent bullshit which is currently doing the exact opposite of "promoting] the Progress of Science and useful Arts." The lawyers whose clients still have a legitimate claim would still have plenty of work. Similar though not identical reform is needed for copyrights and trademarks; Step 1 in the former case is reducing the term of copyright to 20 years or so and keeping it there.
      • by psykocrime (61037)
        Well said... I hope some of your suggestions come to fruition!
      • by GIL_Dude (850471)
        Makes a lot of sense. Now, we need to "Make it so."
      • To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

        Set the limited time to 20 hours instead of 20 years...
      • by GWBasic (900357)

        Step 3: require patent holders to defend their patents, as is the case with trademarks. If the patent holder could reasonably be expected to be aware of a violation -- as IBM certainly could be expected to be aware of Amazon -- require them to begin legal action within one (1) year or forfeit the claim.

        Actually, patent holders do have to defend their patents; it is the patent holders who always accuse other parties of violating patents.

        I think the real problem is that one company will buy another company

      • You should send that to your congressman and ask him to submit it as a bill.

      • Step 1: if it's not a physical object, a working model of which can be presented at the time of filing, don't grant a patent. Period. End of story. No software algorithms, no "business methods," no DNA sequences, etc. -- software can go copyright;

        That doesn't work - if something is actually innovative and wholly software, then copyright just means that someone else has to write the software.


      • Maybe you should quote the sentence before that one as well: The Congress shall have power... They don't have to exercise that power. I mean, listed in the same section is: To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; According to your logic the congress would have to use the militia to execute the laws of the union.

    • Make lawyers a minimum wage job. All the lawsuits are costing the public a fortune and has placed the court system in perminate gridlock.


      They're expensive because they are permitted a government mandated monopoly on practice.

       
  • by kimvette (919543) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:20PM (#16959582) Homepage Journal
    But I thought companies such as IBM only use their patent portfolios defensively, particularly concerning patents over trivial and/or obvious "inventions?" Isn't that what a number of users here have been claiming? I'm confused! ;)
    • by creimer (824291)
      They do say that a good defense is a good offense. Besides, annoying the heck out of the other guy has never been ruled out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jason Earl (1894)

      IBM is the ultimate patent troll. They make quadzillions every year licensing their patent portfolio. In fact, Microsoft's recent foray into the patent business are based on recreating IBM's success. When it comes to patents IBM is definitely not the good guy.

      • by Wolfier (94144) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @12:11AM (#16961332)
        Good guy or not, it depends on what they do with the patents, not that they hold a lot of patents.

        In suing Amazon, are they trying to sue away a competitor? Don't think so. Are they trying to extort money? Given IBM's size, I doubt it.

        On the flip side of the coin, IBM is pro-OSS at this moment, and I'm glad that IBM has so many patents.
        • by Jason Earl (1894)

          Exactly. That's why IBM is a bad guy when it comes to patents. They make millions of dollars shaking down companies that they feel are using their patents without paying. IBM has been more successful (by far) than any other company at monetizing its patent portfolio.

          In this particular case IBM wants a piece of the multi-billion dollar online advertising business. If IBM can set a precedent with Amazon then it will round up all of the other big players and get its money from them.

          When it comes to pat

          • by Wolfier (94144)
            Simple indiscriminate enforcements of patents is nothing bad - it's the misuse of patents (e.g. extort with submarine patents without actual implementation, suing competitor out of business) that's bad.

            Enforcements sometimes are necessary, otherwise the patent may diminish in power when needed, much like a Trademark does.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      companies such as IBM only use their patent portfolios defensively

            Yes, they're merely applying the "The Best Defense is a Strong Offense" maxim...purely defensive though. Probably go after Amazon's WMD's next...
  • I'm not sure whether to tag this one "haha" or "evil"

  • by Cauchy (61097) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @08:30PM (#16959668)
    Ok, I understand the desire to hate bad patents and bad patent law, and I hate large corporations as much as the next guy---I made enough 'free' phone calls in my youth to prove that. But, seriously, the small guy needs patent law more than the big guy. I work creating ip as I am sure many of you do, and I have extensive experience working for startups including some without VC funding. The fact is that if I, as an individual or a very small business, come up with an idea, a patent may be my only line of protection. I don't have the money to develop it as fast as IBM or Microsoft or Google. I couldn't seek funding for an idea without ip law because the investors might just steal my idea. Patents and ip law are the ONLY protection I have from being completely screwed over.

    When I was younger, I screamed 'information wants to be free' as loud as any of you. However, that was probably the dumbest idea ever to be voiced. Information is the most valuable asset in the world, and it always has been. People die for information all the time. The CIA, NSA, DIA, NRO, and all the other agencies we love to hate are solely about information. Wars are won and lost because of information. Societies succeed or disappear because of information. Information wants to cost you everything.

    We may think the patent system is broken, but we do need a patent system, and we need a patent system that covers algorithms. An algorithm one of us invents is just as valuable as a widget some mechanical engineer invents.
    • by wes33 (698200)

      The CIA, NSA, DIA, NRO, and all the other agencies we love to hate are solely about information.

      And these organizations exist and work so hard at keeping information unfree. Why? Because information "wants" to be free. This is almost a theorem of thermodynamics. Unshared information is an unstable equilibrium and it takes a lot of work to keep the information state at the top of the hill.

      The internet is like adding a new path to the lowest energy state and information is just "desperate" to flow down

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Cauchy (61097)
        > And these organizations exist and work so hard at keeping information unfree.

        Actually, the purpose of these organizations is generally to acquire information. Most of the secrecy comes to protecting their methods for acquiring information. And, it isn't the information that wants to be free. People want the information because it is valuable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mjrauhal (144713)

      I couldn't seek funding for an idea without ip law because the investors might just steal my idea. Patents and ip law are the ONLY protection I have from being completely screwed over.

      Not so. This can be done with suitable NDAs and/or pre-contracts (eg. negotiating a flat high percentage and no money up front for use of the ideas, with the understanding that this is just a stopgap and renegotiating will occur once people know what's on the table). This is of course impractical now, since investors would

    • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:50PM (#16960398)

      Problems with that theory:

      • As soon as you come up with a good idea, you'll be sued into submission by a large company's patent warchest
      • Small companies don't even have the money or time to pursue patent lawsuits, so if a big company did take your idea, you'd be tied up in court until you were broke... or they launched a countersuit (see above)
    • by rajafarian (49150)
      An algorithm one of us invents is just as valuable as a widget some mechanical engineer invents.

      How much capital will it take to bring that mechanical widget into fruition versus your hypothetical algorithm?
    • by edbarbar (234498) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:27PM (#16961066)
      The patent system wasn't invented to protect the little guy. It was invented to protect society.

      In your note above, you say going it alone might take so long to get there someone else scoops you. In that case, you want to protect that you got there first, or patented the idea first. Patents weren't designed to protect the person that gets there first.

      In terms of getting funding for an idea, in my experience VCs fund teams and markets first, and ideas second. I do have some sympathy with this part of your argument, but not a tremendous amount. If your ideas are really good, they will fund you precisely because you can come up with good ideas.

      CIA, spooks, etc.? Pulease. Patents aren't about protecting information, they are about releasing information but protecting ideas.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by swillden (191260) *

      But, seriously, the small guy needs patent law more than the big guy.

      That's a nice theory, but the reality is that the small guy can't afford patents, and the big guy can. The little guy is much better off keeping the important ideas secret, protecting them with trade secret and contract law (NDAs, etc.). Patent litigation is ruinously expensive, and if you end up fighting with a big guy, odds are very good that he'll dig up a dozen patents of his own that you are infringing.

      Note that I do think pate

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bent Mind (853241)
      Years ago, in watching the fight between Microsoft and Apple over the GUI, I made the comment to a friend that Apple should just patent the interface. It seemed like they were attempting to use copyright law when patent law would make more sense. I didn't give it much more thought until the last couple of years.

      I caught a headline on Slashdot the other day saying that Intel had been granted a patent on Web phones. The summary said it had been filed for in 2000. I didn't get the chance to read the article
    • How dare you forbid me to think for myself!

      The problem with your reasoning is that it goes against the most basic grain of how human culture has developed.

      The most fundamental freedom of any person (after covering the basic necesities) is the freedom to think.

      If you come up with a method to solve a problem you should be fully entitled to get some kind of remuneration if your method is useful. But I don't see why if I come with my own method to solve the same problem I should have to pay you anything for it.
  • Why only Amazon? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @09:03PM (#16960014)
    FTA:

    Amazon is accused of infringing on five IBM patents, including technologies that govern how the site recommends products to customers, serves up advertising and stores data.

    Some of the patents were first filed in the 1980s, including one titled "Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalog."

    "Given that time frame, these are very fundamental inventions for e-commerce and how to do it on the network," said John Kelly III, IBM's senior vice president for intellectual property. "Much, if not all, of Amazon's business is built on top of this property."


    By this description, it would seem that IBM is entitled to sue just about every online vendor on the web today.

    For maximum patent lawsuit profits, I think they should hit the iTunes store next, then work their way down the list of all domains until the profit from the lawsuits drops to less than $10K per victim.

    The potential for a cash grab is absolutely insane here, they could bankrupt just about every single online vendor on the web, though that might be counterproductive to their hardware sales, however if the lawsuit profits can be invested and grow at a rate greater than hardware sales profits, I guess that wouldn't matter and IBM could abandon hardware sales and simply manage investment funds started with lawsuit profits.

    This is definitely the beginning of the end of online commerce.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This is definitely the beginning of the end of online commerce.

      Only if IBM win.

      There is a big difference between initiating legal action against someone and successfully arguing your case in court, perhaps more so in the US business world than anywhere else.

      There is also a world of difference between attempting to use your huge patent portfolio to put pressure on a single target with a limited portfolio of its own, and attempting to use your huge patent portfolio against half the business world (and

  • by pjr.cc (760528) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:39PM (#16960730)
    As I sit there coding some piece of rather innocent software blissfully unaware of the world around me, i wonder how many patents im infringing with every line of code....

    This is quite seriously scary stuff in my opinion and just goes to emphasize how we really shouldnt have software patents in the first place. Sadly, im a big fan of big blue and dislike amazon quite alot.

    I wonder how many people, who code just "stumble" on the same idea. If you locked a coder in a black box and told him write a site that sells things online and make it "feature" rich, how many patents would he infringe?

    The broad nature of the patents (or at least how they are described in the article) makes me pray to god IBM dont win this one.
  • What does IBM want? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Weezul (52464) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:40PM (#16960754)
    Does IBM just want money? Do they want Amazon to buy their stuff? Could they be seeking cross licensing deals for Amazon's shit patents?

    I'd be lovely if IBM descided that its time someone puts the U.S. patent office out of its missery, but I'm sure this isn't the case if they have been trying to negotiate licensing deals with Amazon. But it might still have that effect if Amazon is stupid.
  • This just heavily underscores why the duration of patents needs to be drastically shortened, with no option for extension. Ten years or less would be sufficient.
  • so shall ye sow.
  • good cop bad cop (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rgaginol (950787) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @11:17PM (#16961004)
    I'm lost... which company is the good cop now and which one is bad cop? Oh that's right, companies don't care, they just want more money - I keep forgetting that quintessential fact about a company.
    • I've said it before, but I'll say it until I'm blue int he face. Companies try to earn as much money as possible because its the most efficient way of determining prices. Good and bad really don't apply to such a general principle of economics, now how they maximize profits is. So in this case IBM is a "bad Cop" not because it wants to max profits, but because it is offensively applying its (somewhat obvious) patent portfolio to do so.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.

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